Beating the Bed Bug Epidemic

Bed bugs are back and could be coming to a bedroom near you. Here's how to show them the door.

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Going on a Bed Bug Hunt
Bed bugs hide in dark spots where they're unlikely to be disturbed. When you hunt for them, you may not see live bugs, so keep an eye out for their calling cards: rust-colored spots (blood stains), eggs (pearly white and 1 millimeter long), molted skins and black specks. Here's where to look  from them at home - and in "high-risk" public places:

  • The boxspring: Lift it up and look underneath and along the seams. In some cases, professionals will slice open the cloth to look inside, because the bugs love the wood frame.
  • Nearby furniture: Inspect sofas, the undersides of bureau drawers, behind the headboard, and the backs and undersides of nightstands. Pay special attention to cracks, crevices, and seams.
  • On the wall: Peek under picture frames, wall hangings, peeling wallpaper or chipped paint.
  • At the movies: The hours you sit in the theater give bed bugs plenty of time to creep into your clothing and bags (don’t put them on the neighboring seat; keep them on the floor). Bring a small flashlight with you and give your seats a thorough inspection. Again, you’ll want to look into the cracks and crevices, where the cloth seating meets the plastic molding, and under the armrests.
  • At the mall: Before you pick up a new piece of clothing, remember: you’re not the first person to touch it. Someone may have returned the very shirt you’re about to take home, and there’s a good chance it entered their bedroom. Be extra careful: check under the arms, behind the collar, inside cuffs and at the seams before trying it on or making a purchase.

Stay Calm and Get Help
If you find evidence of bed bugs, call a professional right away. Do not panic and toss your belongings in the street. Moving an infested mattress will just spread the infestation both to other parts of your house and to your neighbors. Bug bombs do not help, and, in some cases, make it much worse, dispersing live bugs to where they cannot be found.